Poll: Most Israelis think olim increase crime

Survey shows 73% see aliya as vital for Israel, but 52% of respondents say immigration raised crime.

aliya 298 nefesh benefes (photo credit: Nefesh Benefesh)
aliya 298 nefesh benefes
(photo credit: Nefesh Benefesh)

A new survey conducted for the ImmigrantAbsorption Ministry reveals mixed feelings among the Israeli populationtoward new immigrants. While 73 percent of the people surveyed saidthey believed immigration was vital for the state, more than half alsosaid immigration had caused a rise in crime and youth alcoholism.

Thesurvey, which was conducted by Geocartography Knowledge Group andreleased Tuesday in advance of the Absorption Ministry's AshdodConference on Immigration and Absorption, interviewed a representativesample of 500 people on their attitudes toward new immigrants. This isthe fourth time such a survey was conducted.

Nearly a third of those asked (30%) said immigration made itsubstantially harder for veteran Israelis to obtain housing, and 35%said it made it substantially harder to find jobs. These opinions wereespecially strong among low-income earners.

The survey did, however, show a drop in those thinking this waysince the publication of the previous survey in 2007, from 44%regarding housing and 41% when it came to jobs.

One of the main issues that the survey sought todetermine was how new immigrants measured in relation to other groupsin terms of their entitlement to government assistance.

While 59% of those asked believed that new immigrants shouldreceive government help, immigrants ranked lower than recentlydischarged soldiers (84%) and young couples (72%). Immigrants did,however, rank higher than families with many children, and returningresidents.

Whenasked which population people would most like to have as neighbors,veteran Israelis came in first, followed by new immigrants from theUnited States, immigrants from France, immigrants from the formerSoviet Union and lastly immigrants from Ethiopia.

The same results emerged when people were asked whichpopulation they would be happy to have in their children's class, andwhom they would like their children to marry.

Seeking to learn about people's impressions of how immigrationinfluenced aspects of day-to-day life, the survey asked people to rankimmigrants' influence on culture, security, economic situation,education and crime.

While immigrants scored high for cultural influence, in theother areas their positive influence was registered as negligible. Inaddition, 52% said new immigrants had a negative effect on crime.

The survey also sought to see where interactions betweenveteran Israelis and new immigrants took place. The surveydifferentiated among immigrants according to their region: immigrantsfrom the former Soviet Union, immigrants from Ethiopia and immigrantsfrom the United States and the rest of the world.

The survey asked what sort of interactions with immigrant populations people had over the last year.

According to the findings, 64% of those asked met withimmigrants from the FSU in their homes or in the homes of others; 64%met them at work or at social events and 63% encountered them bychance, at places like the supermarket or on the bus. Only 9% said theynever encountered them.

With immigrants from the West, the numbers were quitedifferent. Forty-two percent said they never encountered immigrantsfrom those countries. Of those who did encounter them, 33% said theymet them by chance in public places, 37% said they met them at work andat social occasions and 24% said they hosted them in their homes or metthem in the homes of others.

When it came to Ethiopian immigrants, only 13% said they metthem at home, 41% said they met at work and 51% said their onlymeetings were chance encounters. 27% said they had never encountered anEthiopian immigrant.

Dr. Ze'ev Khanin, chief scientist of the Immigrant AbsorptionMinistry and one of the people who designed the survey, said he wassomewhat surprised by its findings.

"On the one hand people say that immigration is vital, but onthe other hand, they report on negative impacts of it. It seems likethe two don't go together," said Khanin. He blames the discrepancy onthe media, which he said, highlights the negative instead of reportingon the norm.

"We have seen an increase in this tendency since the horriblecase of the Oshrenko family murder [in late October]. That story wasreported in the news as a purely immigrant-related affair and caused abacklash of negative opinion against the immigrant population, andespecially against the Russian immigrants," said Khanin.

Khanin said the survey also served to dispel the notion that there is a "Russian ghetto" in Israel.

"A common misconception is that the immigrant population thatcame from the FSU exists in an insular society and doesn't take part ingeneral Israeli society. I think that the statistics on people whointeract with immigrants that the survey reveals, can put that notionbehind us. Where I do see a problem is with Ethiopian immigrants, whoranked very low on all the integration indicators," he said.

Khanin also lamented the perception of immigration as a negative influence on economic well-being.

"I thought that discussion was behind us already, that wefinished with that 10 years ago. All the objective indicators wepossess show us that the immigration waves of the last 20 years helpedboost the Israeli economy," said Khanin.

One survey measurement that Khanin said tells the whole storyis the fact that immigrants themselves ranked immigrants lower thanrecently released soldiers as being deserving of government assistance.

"It shows just how deeply they've integrated and adopted the local mind-set," he said.

The Ashdod conference will take place on January 25, and will be attended by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.